Sheepshead & Calico Bass


I love brunch, especially on a Sunday morning after church. A true American brunch is hard to find in Japan though, so when we moved back Stateside it was one of the first things we set out to find – a fabulous American brunch. Close to where we live we found just such a spot, which also happens to be only a few feet from the picturesque Oceanside Harbor. It is called Stratford At The Harbor. Right next door to this snoody sounding, yet realistically down to earth dining establishment is the Oceanside Sea Center office. They advertise low priced fishing charters and for several months I have been telling myself I needed to check it out. Well a few weeks back we surprised my father-in-law and booked an off-shore fishing trip on the Chubasco II. 

My father-in-law Don and I showed up an hour plus early so that we could grab brunch at Stratford On The Harbor and a few bloody mary’s and mimosas before our departure. The sun was shining and it was a perfect 75 degrees and low humidity. After brunch we boarded the Chubasco II and got familiar with the crew. Many age appropriate jokes and comments were exchanged and right away I knew it was going to be a great trip.

Setting Sail

We headed out of the harbor and turned south. After about an hour or so we arrived at the first fishing spot. The deck hands rigged my rod but I was in charge of catching the live bait and attaching them to the hook. The water was about 50′ deep and it didn’t take too long for me to get my first hit. Whatever was on my line was huge! My rod was bent over nearly double and the drag was screaming. Then suddenly it was gone. The deckhands laughed and told me it was a seal. I spent the rest of the time at the spot “catching” seal after seal while all the other more experienced anglers were raking in some nice Calico Bass and Sheepshead. After an hour or so both my father-in-law and I had struck out. 

The boat weighed anchor and we headed north to another spot. When we arrived I switched to a different setup. Using live bait you cast out but instead of flipping the bail on the reel you leave it open and hold a foot or two of slack in your free hand. The bait starts swimming and the Calico Bass come up out of the depths and attack. When the line gets pulled out of your free hand you wait for a three count then flip the bail and bring the fish to hand. It is definitely an exciting way to fish, and much less prone to catching seals. I ended up bringing five or so Calico Bass to hand. They were all pretty big (especially for a tenkara angler fresh from Japan) but not big enough to keep (I think the cutoff was 17″). 

There were a lot of nice customers on the boat who offered tips, encouragement, friendly jokes; and by the end of the day my bag had four or five fish in it – donated from luckier anglers. That night we dined like royalty and drank a toast or three to the generosity of strangers. We were told that the Sheepshead eat crustaceans so their meat tastes like lobster, in fact they call the fish “Poor Mans Lobster”. The best way to cook them is to steam them. The Calico Bass we grilled on our BBQ. 

Gravel Riding

The fishing action has been a little slow for me this season. However, I have been keeping myself busy with another one of my favorite pastimes – cycling. I purchased a Gravel Bike this past April and have been putting the miles on. It has been a lot fun, so much fun in fact that I decided to launch another website. So, if you are into cycling go check out Macadam Grinding. The site is still in its infancy, but for now my goal is to grow it into a resource for beginner cyclists who are serious about training, nutrition, and gear who want to race but do not have $10,000 to drop on a bike.

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